Financial stability & sustainability
Adopted 2015-2016 budget maintains current Metro service level.
The King County Council’s adoption of the 2015-2016 county budget on Nov. 17, 2014 marked a turning point for Metro. Coming after extraordinary efforts to save bus service during a six-year financial crisis, the new budget maintains the current level of service for the 2015-2016 biennium.
After the 2008 recession caused a steep drop in sales tax revenue, Metro preserved most bus service by cutting costs, raising fares, and making a host of fiscal reforms. But after some temporary funding expired in 2014, it was necessary to delete or reduce service on 41 bus routes in September 2014. Additional cuts were proposed for 2015 and 2016.
However, Metro’s ongoing efficiency gains, projections of lower fuel costs, and other financial improvements enabled the Council to adopt a budget that eliminated the need for service cuts. Learn more about our funding.
In November 2014, Seattle voters approved funding for additional transit service. The City of Seattle subsequently entered into a contract with King County to purchase Metro service through Executive Dow Constantine’s Community Mobility Contracts Program. Seattle will expand service on Metro routes that serve the city by about 10 percent. This funding expires after 2020. (related article )
The need remains for long-term, sustainable funding that fully meets King County’s current and future demand for bus service. Metro will continue striving for efficiency improvements to make the most of every available transit dollar, and county leaders have pledged to continue working for a statewide transportation funding solution.
- Executive offers enhanced program for cities to buy bus service to avoid transit cuts
(May 12, 2014)
- King County’s first biennial budget highlights secure families and communities as it meets mandated responsibilities
(Nov. 17, 2014)
- Mayor, Executive, Council celebrate transit, announce bus service agreement
(Nov. 5, 2014)
Send an email to Metro Community Relations or call 206-477-5788
Our funding — past and present
Before 2000, Metro relied on the state’s motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) for nearly one-third of our revenue. Revenue from this source grew roughly in line with Metro’s service growth. In 2000, following voter approval of Initiative 695, the state legislature eliminated the MVET for transit agencies.
After the MVET was eliminated, King County voters approved two sales tax increases, in 2000 and 2006, to help make up for the lost revenue. These tax increases brought Metro to the maximum allowable 0.9 percent sales tax level. Today, 50 to 60 percent of Metro’s operating revenue comes from local sales tax.
Metro’s increased reliance on sales tax made our ability to provide bus service more dependent on economic conditions. Sales tax is volatile; receipts can vary substantially with the ups and downs of the region’s economy.
We experienced this volatility twice in recent years. Metro had planned to increase service after both the 2000 and 2006 sales tax increases. Several months after the first increase was approved, the “dot-com” recession began, and the sales tax revenue Metro actually received never reached the projected amount. Metro was able to complete some, but not all, of the planned service increases.
Soon after the 2006 tax increase was approved, Metro made a number of the planned service improvements. But in 2008, the Great Recession caused an even more serious erosion of sales tax revenue, leading to a shortfall of approximately $1.2 billion for Metro from 2009 through 2015. With the adoption of Metro’s 2010-2011 budget, the King County Council agreed that the one-tenth of a cent sales tax increase would be used to preserve existing service.
Metro took many other actions to weather the financial crisis that lingered for six years—cutting costs, increasing fares, tapping reserve funds, negotiating cost-cutting labor agreements, adopting new operating efficiencies, and more. These actions saved or gained nearly $800 million for bus service between 2009 and 2013, and have brought ongoing annual savings or revenue gains of close to $150 million annually.
However, some temporary funding expired in 2014. Faced with an ongoing revenue gap, Metro proposed service reductions for 2014 and 2015. As we planned the 2015-2016 biennial budget, we took new actions to increase efficiency and preserve as much service as possible. The adopted 2015-2016 budget reflects these efficiency efforts (see below).
As a result of these actions, lower projected fuel costs, and other factors, the King County Council adopted a 2015-2016 budget that maintains Metro service at the current level. However, the budget does not enable Metro to grow to meet all current and future demand for service.
While Metro and other transportation providers have struggled to manage the long financial crisis and ongoing lack of adequate funding for transit, roads, bridges, and ferries, community leaders across the state have advocated for a statewide transportation funding solution. The state legislature has considered a number of proposals but has not approved one. King County leaders are continuing to seek a broad, long-term funding solution.
Meanwhile, Metro continues striving to become even more efficient and make the best use of every transit dollar.
Efficiency improvements in Metro’s 2015-2016 budget
- Cut liability claims and workers’ comp costs.
- Purchased 40 fewer replacement buses without impacting service.
- Made business process improvements resulting in a reduction in employee positions.
- Through King County’s Healthy Incentives Program, reduced the growth in employee health care costs.
- Conducted a bus base automation project.
- Used Lean techniques to improve vehicle repair and parts inventory management practices.
- Created and increased the use of lower-cost alternatives to Access service. Lower fuel costs will also reduce Access costs. Worked with other county agencies to control service costs, resulting in significant savings in financial accounting, facilities and central services.
- Adopted a number of smaller measures, such as reducing energy costs and eliminating vacant positions that are no longer considered priorities.